Ohio State sophomore quarterback Justin Fields and sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave have shared a special connection this season.
The duo linked up for a team-high 790 yards and 11 touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 13-game journey to the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Olave made key scoring grabs in contests against then-No. 13 Michigan, then-No. 13 Wisconsin and even a fourth-and-one go-ahead snag against No. 3 Clemson.
Fields and Olave rode their receiver-quarterback bond to the highest highs in 2019. In its final chance at glory, however, it hit its lowest low.
“It’s a mistake from me because I thought he was scrambling but that ball was supposed to go to me and I was supposed to run out the post and I believe it would’ve been a touchdown. Definitely put it on me, definitely put the game on my shoulders.”
With 43 seconds left, Ohio State trailed by six points but held the ball with second-and-7 at the Clemson 24-yard-line. It had moved 51 yards on the series to that point, appeared destined for a photo finish to capture victory.
Fields dropped back, then scrambled left for a split second before throwing to Olave on a post route.
Instead of cutting in for that route, however, Olave had cut out for the corner.
The ball sailed into the hands of Clemson redshirt junior safety Nolan Turner to seal victory and a national title berth for the Tigers.
“Just the worst feeling –– probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life,” redshirt sophomore center Josh Myers said. “I don’t even know how else to express it. I said earlier, kind of at a loss for words. It’s awful.”
Olave said when Fields broke to scramble, he decided to improvise with a secondary route in the endzone.
Fields hit freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson on a similar secondary-route scramble for a crucial 30-yard touchdown against Michigan. But in this situation, Olave said he made the decision a touch too early.
“Right after I threw it I saw him try to scramble, and then we’ve hit so many big plays on scrambles this year, so I know where he’s coming from, but you can’t really do anything about it,” Fields said.
The pick was the second Fields threw in the contest, after throwing one in Ohio State’s other 13 games combined.
“Like Coach Day said, it was the look we wanted. Then Chris [Olave] it was basically just a miscommunication,” Fields said. “So that happens in life, and you really can’t do anything about it now. Just have to move on.”
Olave said he places the game on his own shoulders, shifting blame for the loss to himself.
With all the other plays that cost Ohio State Saturday, from roughing the kicker penalties to failed red zone conversions to a failure to stop Clemson sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence from breaking off huge runs, Fields said Olave isn’t to blame.
“That one play does not define the game. Of course it was a big play, but he did not lose us the game,” Fields said. “He’s a great player, he’s definitely one of the best receivers in the country, so I don’t agree with him on that.”
A missed connection between Fields and Olave may have ended the 2019 season for Ohio State, but they’ll have plenty more chances to fix the faulty wiring.
Barring extreme circumstances, both will return for the Buckeyes in 2020.
“I think it’s gonna make me work harder. I want to be the best next year,” Olave said. “The best receiver in the country. It’s a big experience and a big moment to learn from.”